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Essam El Hadary. At 43, He is Still the Phenominal Backline Shield for Egypt

At 43, Essam El-Hadary ages gracefully like a well-kept artifact. His lustrous career as Egypt’s goal keeper could see him become the oldest player in Nations Cup history, when the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Gabon in a few weeks. He would also beat the 2006 record of 39-year-old compatriot, Hossam Hassan.

Should he pull on the gloves on Jan. 17, in Egypt’s opening game in Group D against Mali in Port Gentil, he will easily become the oldest player to compete at the tournament. The game will come two days after his 44th birthday.

El-Hadary’s sleek look and cool appeal is backed by his pharaoh-like stature in goal, earning him a decisive comeback for Egypt even though, he has stepped back to play an assisting role to younger contenders.

Dubbed the ‘High Dam’, El-Hadary rejoined the Egyptian National Squad in February 2016, 458 days after a 2-0 loss to Tunisia in November 2014.

His selection was one without hesitation as Egypt seeks a record-extending eighth Africa Cup of Nations title in Gabon. El-Hadary repaid the faith restored in his sensational goalkeeping skills when he pulled off key saves to help Egypt restore its stature among them, an AFCON qualification and an important 2-1 win in October 2016, over Congo in a World Cup qualifier played in Brazzaville.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I’ve never seen a player with El-Hadary’s persistence and perseverance before,”[/perfectpullquote]

former Egypt striker Mido told BeIN Sports following Egypt’s win over Congo.

Mido who coached in Ismailia added, “During my days in Ismailia, I used to see El-Hadary wake up early and run around the pitch an hour even before the training session begins.”

In April 2012, former Ivory Coast and Chelsea star striker, Didier Drogba told Chelsea FC Magazine that El-Hadary, is the “best opponent” he has ever played against.

His energy and charisma in addition to his club form at Wadi Degla, is nothing short of remarkable at 43. Now in pursuit of continental glory, El-Hadary can show off why he is a four-time AFCON champion and why Egyptian football, is still a force to reckon with.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Egypt has a long history in this competition. We’ve won it seven times, three of them in a row, which is something nobody else has ever done. Us being there is going to add interest to the competition, and I am certain that football fans in Egypt, the Arab world and Africa, are delighted to see us back,”[/perfectpullquote]

El-Hadary told

Also for El-Hadary, the World Cup is a world-wide shared desire to feature on a stage against the world’s best football nations. With 17 months to 2018 Russia World Cup, an extended two-year club contract that keeps him at Wadi Degla will keep him seasoned hopefully, in time for the tournament.

Egypt’s goalkeeping coach, Ahmed Nagy is adamant that El-Hadary’s mastery at protecting the goal, will diminish any time soon.

Nagy told BBC Sport, “Essam was not on our shortlist to be called to the national team but the form he has been in for his club Wadi Degla, forced us to call him.

“When we called him last March for the match against Nigeria, he was number four for us, now he is number one. He played against Tanzania and was amazing.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”He is one of the most important goalkeepers in Egypt and Africa and I think he can play until he is 50.”[/perfectpullquote]

El-Hadary also paid tribute to his long career which debuted in March 1996 against South Korea.

However, he acknowledged his World Cup dream by telling, “I’m proud of my long career but playing in the World Cup is something special for any player. There is no limit to my ambition and I have always been determined to achieve that objective.”

He also told BBC Sport, “It is my biggest goal now. I will not lose hope to play at the World Cup, I will not give up and I will keep training hard.”

A successful World Cup qualification to play in Russia, will earn him a chance to break Faryd Mondragon’s record as the oldest player at a finals game

Egypt’s AFCON Group D also features: Ghana, Mali, Egypt and Uganda


Featured Photo: Essam El Hadary looks to make a remarkable comeback in goal for Egypt, as the oldest player at the competition. (Getty Images)

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